The impact of future climate change on the glaciers in the Karakoram and Himalaya (KH) is investigated using CMIP5 multi-model temperature and precipitation projections, and a relationship between glacial accumulation-area ratio and mass balance developed for the region based on the last 30 to 40 years of observational data. We estimate that the current glacial mass balance (year 2000) for the entire KH region is -6.6 ± 1 Gta−1, which decreases about sixfold to -35 ± 2 Gta−1 by the 2080s under the high emission scenario of RCP8.5. However, under the low emission scenario of RCP2.6 the glacial mass loss only doubles to -12 ± 2 Gta−1 by the 2080s. We also find that 10.6 and 27 % of the glaciers could face ‘eventual disappearance’ by the end of the century under RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 respectively, underscoring the threat to water resources under high emission scenarios.
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RKC thanks the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, for supporting this study in form of the ‘National Environmental Sciences fellowship’. We thank the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, for supporting Divecha Centre for Climate Change. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in the Supplementary Table S1 of this paper) for producing and making available their model outputs. We also thank Dr. G. Cogley and two other anonymous reviewers for providing valuable suggestions.
Competing financial interests statement
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
The concept was developed by A.K, G.B and R.K.C; Y.K. and J.J. contributed to data analysis. RKC and A.K led the paper writing process.
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Chaturvedi, R.K., Kulkarni, A., Karyakarte, Y. et al. Glacial mass balance changes in the Karakoram and Himalaya based on CMIP5 multi-model climate projections. Climatic Change 123, 315–328 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-1052-5